Mastering the track and classroomBy MIKE SCANDURA
Special to the Union Leader
April 21. 2018 9:59PM
SMITHFIELD, R.I. - Look up the definition of student-athlete on Wikipedia and you'll see a photo of Bryant University's Alexander Evans.
Evans, of Bow, N.H., arguably is one of the better distance and cross-country runners in the Northeast Conference.
Besides his accomplishments on cross-country courses and tracks, Evans has been named to the NEC Commissioner's Honor Roll and the NEC Academic Honor Roll seven times through the 2017-18 winter season.
Evans already has completed his bachelor's degree in communication (with a minor in business administration and marketing) and is working on his master of arts degree in communication.
"I decided to continue my education at Bryant to exhaust my remaining NCAA eligibility and to continue to grow with my mentors and classmates that I have worked with for the past four years," Evans said in a recent interview.
In one sense, what Evans has accomplished may be interpreted as the exception rather than the rule considering he's participated in three sports and has maintained a solid academic record.
"I think it definitely stands out," Bryant track and field/cross country coach Mitchell Switzer said of his fifth-year senior. "You do see it but it isn't something that happens often where someone competes in all three seasons and is able to have the academic success that he's had because it can be a very, very long grind."
“You start training over the summer and then there’s competition in the fall and you must manage whatever the workload might be for that semester. Then you come back in early January to start competing again all the way through the spring. That can really take a toll on an athlete mentally, physically and emotionally. But being academically successful across all three seasons surely stands out.”
Some of Evans more noteworthy athletic accomplishments are as follows:
. He captured the Section 6 Mile at the Ocean State Invitational on April 14.
. During the 2016-17 indoor season, he posted top times of 2:38.55 in the 1,000 meters plus 4:25.11 in the mile and qualified for the mile finals at the NEC Championships.
. In the 2017 outdoor season, he ran the second-fastest mile (4:29.70) in school history. Evans also competed in four events plus the mile - the 800, the 1,500, the 3,000 and the 5,000 - and recorded top times in each event.
. As a junior, he posted a top time of 2:34.51 in the 1000 at the Terrier Invitational.
. Last fall as a graduate student he ran a season-best time of 28:00.2 in the Rothenberg Run.
. He was even faster in the 2014 Rothenberg Run as he notched a season-best time of 27:38.75.
“I think Alex has seemed to have the most success running the 1,500 and the mile,” Switzer said. “I believe it was a couple of years ago that he made the (NEC) final for us in the indoor mile. I think that’s where he’s realized his range of skills kind of falls.
“He’s also very successful for us in cross country. He’s been in our top group for us in cross country and that’s an 8k. He’s really a very versatile athlete on the track.”
What Evans has done in and outside of the classroom only tells a fraction of the story considering he's had to overcome myriad injuries to regain the form he had as a freshman.
"My sophomore year I had a stress fracture in my left foot and redshirted my cross-country season," Evans said. "That set me back for the cross-country season and sent me into the bike and the pool and it cost me a lot of hours cross training because I had to wait for it to heal."
What transpired next fell under the heading of, if Evans didn’t have bad luck, he wouldn’t have had any luck at all.
"After that happened once, it came back again, heading into the preseason of my senior year. That's when I lost my whole cross-country season of eligibility. Eventually the bone healed. I also had random hip injuries and I bruised my oblique this past fall."
The past five years have been a lot of trying to get a consistent base for the longest period of time without any injuries.”
Switzer noted that battling injuries posed a mental challenge for Evans.
"He's had injuries throughout his career and he's been able to come back from those injuries and be successful," Switzer said. "Mentally he said I want to come back and want to get the most out of it that I can."
“I think he’s very mentally strong in that sense.”
Evans did experience frustrating moments.
“I felt isolated and apart from the team, which was difficult because they’re my closest friends,” he said. “Once I started to see progress — being able to walk and jog a little — I could see myself coming back to practice.
“I couldn’t let them down and give them something to say like, ‘If Alex can do it why can’t I do it?’”
Evans also is a captain, which carries another responsibility.
“I think an area in which I’d like to see him continue to be as strong as he is would be to continue to show the leader he is to his teammates because he really does a great job as a leader for the program,” Switzer said. “Being able to balance the fact that he’s an athlete in a master’s program but also a captain this year really describes who he is.”
In retrospect what Evans has done mirrors his career, without injuries, at Bow High School, where he earned All-State honors in outdoor track as a senior.
“I want people to see me as a role model and someone who may not get everything done but finds some way to make it easy,” Evans said. “I was able to do it in high school. I was able to apply that same mentality of I have high expectations of myself to do it. I want other people to think they can do it.
“It isn’t that hard to balance social life, academics and athletics if you put in the time and look at your assignments and how to study most efficiently for them. At the end of the day, it’s a matter of that cliché of your being the student-athlete. Very few runners are going to be professionals. You need to make the most out of the student aspect. If you don’t, you’ve wasted four years.”